Address: 305 Hargrave Street Map
Opened: December 3, 1951 - July 13, 2012
Winnipeg Free Press, Dec 3, 1951The 'Wagon Wheel Lunch' opened on the main floor of a newly expanded and re-christened Norlyn Building on Monday, December 3, 1951. Not a lot is known about the man / men who started the place. Advertising for the first round of staff asked people to apply in person to W. F. Toy at the Devon Cafe, 311 Carlton. The first proprietor was Jim Dare.
Time Building Fire. Source.On the evening of June 8th, 1954 the Norlyn Building was nearly destroyed by the Time Building fire, (seen above left, behind the collapsing Dayton / Dismorr Building). The Norlyn's top floors were completely gutted and lower floors had extensive water and smoke damage. In October 1954, however, the lunch counter began hiring again and would reopen by November.
In 1958 William Hubert Mathez took over the business. Mathez was a Swiss immigrant who came to Canada in 1927. He worked for the St. Charles Golf and Country Club and the Winter Club before taking over Wagon Wheel Lunch. Mathez died April 6, 1978 at the age of 68. His son Louis and daughter-in-law Marina took over.
Under Louis the Wagon Wheel earned a reputation for having the best clubhouse sandwiches in town, (in 2007 Readers Digest gave it a shout-out as the Best Clubhouse Sandwich in Canada.) An avid sports fan, something he inherited from his father, the restaurant became a popular spot for both home and visiting sports teams.
In 1994 Marina Mathez died and Louis surprised customers by showing up for work the next morning. He told the Free Press: "This is where I belong. My wife would have wanted me to be here. Besides, when you have a business you have to attend to it. You have to be loyal to your customers, even today." (Source: Diner looses it's soul, WFP Feb 19, 1994).
On February 7, 2010 Louis Mathez died at the age of 75 and the Wagon Wheel closed for a time. In March 2010 it was announced that the restaurant would reopen on March 29th, 2010 with a third generation of Mathez in charge: daughter Jill and son Gary.
In 2011 plans for a new hotel - retail development were announced that would see the Norlyn Building demolished. The Wagon Wheel's lease expires in July 2012 and it is uncertain if the owners will relocate or close the business.
The Norlyn Building Winnipeg Downtown Places
Wagon Wheel Must Pack Up and Go Wpg Free Press, Nov. 2011
Hero for the Hungry Wpg Free Press, Mar 1, 2010
Diners in the 'Peg The Uniter, Feb 19, 2009
Lunchtime Institution Celebrates 50th Wpg Free Press, May 2, 2008
The Wagon Wheel closes July 13, 2012